About Me

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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

You and the Night: The Learning Never Stops

We just finished our third Godfrey and Guy recording session for You and the Night. The purpose of this session was to make fixes in the instrumental tracks. My goals for this rehearsal were met, thanks to the help of some great musicians and Ken Gregory, the owner of 800 East Studios and an amazing sound engineer.

Our trumpet player was having some lip problems and needed to take the week off. That threw a wrinkle into the proceedings, but Ken was able to fix several trumpet blips digitally. It won't take too long to make the remaining fixes when our trumpet player's lip is feeling better.

Aside from the thrill of recording our first album, this has been a huge learning experience for me in many ways.

Arranging
I often write my own arrangements for groups I perform with. When I was a trombonist, I arranged music for trombone ensemble. I often write arrangements for the church choir that I lead. I've arranged many, many songs for solo guitar, and now I'm writing small band charts for Godfrey and Guy. I've never written music for a jazz ensemble, and I've already learned a lot. For example, now I know how to write more usable parts for the drummer by writing instructions to play time for 16 bars rather than writing out 16 bars of slashes. For the most part, my writing for the two horns worked pretty well, and I'm especially pleased with the soli sections for two horns + guitar. Still, I heard a few problem areas when I listened to the rough mix. Sometimes the writing was a little too thick (even with just two horns), and I ended up writing unisons or leaving out a part or two. Now that I think of it, every single rewrite simplified the music and got out of the way of the vocals. We recorded my rewrites today, and I'm happy with the changes. For future arrangements, the basic lesson is that simple is good. I'm also thinking that I may seek out a teacher to help with jazz arranging. I've always had a knack for arranging music, and I'm sure I could learn a lot on my own, but I could learn a lot faster with a teacher.

Recording Process
While I was officially in charge of each session, I often followed the lead of the other musicians, each of whom has more experience in the studio than I. I was responsible for the general direction of the session…calling breaks, keeping everything on schedule, pointing out fixes to be made, etc., but I often left the details up to the other musicians, and particularly to Ken, our sound engineer. In today's session, I was truly amazed at how little we actually played. Ken was able to fix an amazing number of mistakes digitally, and the musicians were really only required to replay anything Ken couldn't fix, plus take another run at some solos. Lori and I plan on recording more albums in the future, and I'm sure I'll learn something with each new project.

Guitar Comping
While I feel the guitar parts sound pretty good, I know I can do better. Most of my playing is either purely solo (solo guitar or the sole accompanist in Godfrey and Guy) or as part of the Sentimental Journey Orchestra, a 17-piece big band. I rarely play in a combo situation. As a soloist, I play anything and everything. As part of a big band, I'm mainly restricted to playing quarter notes all night. Playing with a combo, I need to find a happy medium. The bass and drums are keeping time, so I have the freedom to play some pianistic fills or even lay out sometimes. While my guitar comping in the rough mix is perfectly acceptable, I plan to practice some more and then head to the studio one more time to lay down some tastier guitar tracks.

It Never Stops
I told my guitar teacher, Dave Frackenpohl, that I was taking a break from guitar lessons while I completed this recording project. I couldn't focus on the recording and lesson material at the same time. I felt that I was putting my education on hold, but that wasn't the case at all. I've learned so much these past few weeks that I almost feel like I've gone through another semester of music school. The learning never stops.

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